Hopping down the Oregon Coast (part 1)

Astoria to Seaside to Cannon Beach to Arch Cape to Manzanita to Nehalem to Wheeler to Rockaway Beach to Garibaldi to Bay City to Tillamook to Cape Mearres State Park to Oceanside to Netarts to Cape Lookout State Park to Pacific City.

So the last week has been spent meandering down the Oregon Coast line from Astoria to Pacific City and what an amazing ride we have had!

On the advice of Lizzie Le Mare, a fellow Tibblette who in 2017 drove the west coast on her honeymoon with Ben we have decided to take it slow along the Oregon coast, riding from town to town, taking in the atmosphere of this very special part of the pacific coast.

The scary bridge into Astoria – we got a ride across

First up Astoria, a very laid back place made up of coffee houses, craft beer breweries, galleries and people making ‘stuff’. As we later learn from our Airbnb host, Chris (a carpenter by trade) Astoria is a place people choose to live who can make ends meat by what they do or what they create and hence it has become a place of artists, artisans and coffee makers!

We had an overnight stay and on the advice of our previous BnB host we visited the Buoy brewery and sat by the water with a small beer of choice (for someone who does not really like beer I am doing well to develop a taste, albeit sticking with the very mild pilsner varieties. Claire on the other hand is getting stuck into all manner of IPAs and ales (quite revolting in my book, but each to their own)).

Highlight of the visit to the brewery: a glass floor with a view of the rocks below where very large seals choose to spend the night and bask in their unwanted celebrity status.

Beer was then followed by a very delicious pizza (one half one flavour the other half another….I like this concept!)

As Claire has already mentioned in our last post the next day involved a waterside yoga class with a Henry VIII look a like teacher and accompanied by suitably appropriate lute music. I mention this class again because I was rather proud of myself for being able to do the crow pose for the first time ever and without breaking my nose. OK the pose only lasted for a millisecond but I am hoping this first tentative step will lead to greater things!

This was then followed by a delicious breakfast and espresso coffees in Street 14 cafe. Great coffee, great granola / yoghurt and a great atmosphere.

Then it was on the bikes and a 50km ride to ‘Seaside’. We took the long way round, which involved us crossing another much shorter and less stressful bridge than the previous nights entry into the town and then riding around Fort Stevens State Park (a former military enclave and now a place to camp, ride bikes, walk and view nature). Rumour had it the area is inhabited by a lot of Elk. Signs warned us of this fact but no sightings on our particular trip.

The quiet of the many pedestrian/ cycle only routes making up the Park eventually gave way to route 101 and large amounts of traffic. We took our place on the hard shoulder and with heads down pounded out the miles as quickly as we could.

We eventually arrived at Seaside just as a heavy sea mist started to fall. Apparently such mists are more common in June than August but because of the extreme heat being experienced inland over the last few weeks the coast has seen the mists arriving in the morning, burning off by lunch and then returning in the evening.

So to Seaside. Well on first view not at all appealing. Car orientated shopping malls along route 101 and a random, unplanned settlement built for the influx of summer holiday makers. We find our home for the night, a small motel, which has been jazzed up with brightly painted doors and windows and murals. We have a large room and deposit our bikes, shower and hit downtown.

Seaside’s centre is made up of a Main Street, Broadway which supports every conceivable food choice and various places of entertainment. On reaching the beach we find it in the process of being covered by volleyball nets. On checking out why on the internet we find that Seaside is about to become host to the west coast’s biggest beach volleyball tournament. (We did plan a return to Seaside but big rain and cozy fires in Arch Cape prevented us from getting back onto our bikes and making the return journey to watch this event- see below).

We eat (an amazing seafood curry) and then to bed. Next day we pack up and after much searching eventually find a much needed laundry in a neighbouring hotel and sneak in (pretending to be guests) to get our limited mobile wardrobes clean.

Cannon beach haystacks
amazing planting in cannon beach
A place to stay
Loads of rabbits on Cannon beach

Onto Cannon Beach...

After a great coffee (Seaside Coffee House) we take the short trip to our next stop, Cannon Beach. A very BIG contrast to Seaside, even though it is only a short jump down the coast. Set off route 101 the town revolves around a main street called Hemlock Street. It is fronted by 2/3 storey buildings, clad in wooden shingles , which have either been left to grey naturally or are painted in subtle shades of beach blues and greens. Hand painted signs identify the many guest houses, beach huts or hotels (Whale Rock, Pelican bay, Surfside, Wave motel – you get the vibe!) and given the time of year confirm that there is ‘No Vacancy’. Gardens and public spaces are planted with an amazing range of plants. Deep blue and purple hydrangeas, grasses, pines, catmint and fennel feature in a big way and look stunning. In addition all the shops are adorned by the most over the top and enormous hanging baskets and people sit around looking at the sea and each other on brightly coloured steamer chairs.

The beach itself comprises endless soft white sand, big breakers and a number of large rock ‘haystacks’, which punctuate the beach expanse. Both being geographers way back in time we spend a few moments of discussion working out how these stacks came to be. Both get it wrong and resort to google to find that they are intact the remains of enormous lava flows which emanated from the earth’s crust in Idaho (Yellowstone National Park) some 45 million years ago and travelled some 300 miles to the ocean. The coastline was apparently some 75 miles inland then, but the lava flows were so powerful they plunged into sediment far offshore and then re-erupted at another location.

We cycle through the town and find our home for the next two days: Grey Whale Inn. A wooden terrace of six linked beach chalets with a little terrace, which I guess were built in the ‘ 50’s. They are situated pretty much on the beach. We unload and then walk along the beach to the main town, have a beer in the Pelican Brewery and then a bowl of steamer clams cooked in beer. (Note: Steamer clams cooked in beer, whilst sounding like a good idea is not. Our view stick with white wine).

We then walk home along the beach and are struck by the fact that there are a lot of rabbits. They are everywhere! Munching their way through everything and they are not like our wild rabbits – these look like a colony of roger rabbits – white ones, brown ones and black ones. On trying to find the story behind the many bunnies we ascertain that no one really knows. Rumour has it that a women in the 1960s let a whole load loose and well they just bread like rabbits. Apparently some locals have tried to make pets of them but they are so inbred that their teeth grow extra long and they have to be shaved down periodically or they cannot eat!…strangely no rabbit stew on the menus!

Next morning it is cold and misty and Claire and I get up early to cycle into town to do a yoga class. This time with Shelly who we learn has a love of 80’s disco music. After a very serious beginning involving stretching and the pling pling of eastern music she informs us of her love of said disco and on que the Bee Gees Nigh Fever starts and we then do a series of weight bearing/ weight lifting moves to the strains of Donna Summer, Earth Wind and Fire and Chic. Loved it! And a great way to get us going and to stretch our bones and muscles.

The lesson finishes with a few tears from Shelly and talk of buying a small chi wa-wa dog….we don’t quite follow the mood of the class and swiftly leave and find ourselves some great coffee. Two places to recommend: Insomnia coffee and the Irish Table (both these establishments hosted us for several hours as we planned out our trip down the coast and beyond as the clouds prevailed). Eventually the clouds lift and we sun ourselves on the beach and walk along the vast expanse beach that is Cannon Beach. This beach is the perfect beach to preambulate, sit and watch the world go by and this we did for a good few hours.

Riding from Arch Cape to Manzita

Move onto Arch Cape…

Then it was time to get our bikes together and to jump to Arch Cape and our next stop on the journey. Our home, a building that had originally been a post office, grocery and general store. Originally built in 1939 and known simply as the ‘Beach House’ the building served as a guest house and post office. The property was bought and sold and eventually was converted to a very comfortable and luxurious Inn. Our room still had the original fire place where the community used to sit around and share the gossip of the day.

We dump most of our stuff early in the morning and then set off south to Manzina. What a great ride! The sun was shining and we had our first real experience of the Oregon coast. The coast road hugged the mountainside and took us up high where we could get fantastic and expansive views of the beaches below or plunged to sea level and ran along the beach edge. It was a very exhilarating and spectacular ride.

Prior to dropping into Manzina itself the opportunity to do laundry in one of the few, if not the only coin operated laundry in the district. With yet another clean wardrobe we ride into Manzina and have some lunch in ‘Left Coast Siesta’ – a great little Mexican restaurant- and enjoy some pretty lovely black bean and chicken taco salads. Whilst eating we learn that the women’s club of Manzina is having an ‘Open House’ tour of all of the houses in the town (and yes this is a town that supports an number of super designer beach shacks) on 25th August…damn too early again. We discuss how much we would have loved to nose round these amazing homes.

We then pick up some food in the local supermarket – note: food is really expensive! I blame Brexit and the poor exchange rate. I buy a few veg, some cheese, charcuterie and chocolate and the bill comes to $100! A lot – even to me who never ever considers what food costs!

We load up and ride back to our lovely Arch Cape enclave, cook an amazing supper and get stuck into the ‘Arch Cape Chronicles: A bit of Oregon Coast’s Past’ by David and Alma English. What a fascinating place. Settled only some 100 years ago, a small number of beach plots have been handed down the generations and a small multi generational community now inhabits this amazing beach. The book chronicles the lives of the first settlers through to the current day. A great story!

The activities of night one at Arch Cape are repeated on night two. Although this time we take a walk on the beach, which we virtually have to ourselves. We are, however treated to the site of two groups of brown pelicans who run up and down the coast swooping down to collect fish. We then walk back to our rooms and collect blackberries on the way and stew them for pudding and sensibly (unlike last night) we have purchased a small half bottle of Provence Rose , which makes the night just perfect!

Riding to Oceanside

A great coastal ride to Oceanside

Next morning it is up early. It is raining (boo!) but we must move on. We pack our bags and set of at 9ish. Our first stop a revisit to Manzina for coffee and then we ride on to Tillamook. A great ride hugging the coast line and various river inlets. The landscape comprises big seas scapes, marshland and woodland. A train line follows the coastline and as we approach Garibaldi an old Casey Jones steam train passes us.

Now Garabaldi? How on earth did this town get its name? Is Garabaldi not a 19th century general who helped unify Italy? Or is it a biscuit (fly cemetery?). Well something to do with a man named Daniel Bayley who was the first significant property owner in the area.He was appointed by President Grant in 1870 as the area’s first postmaster and given the duty of naming the postmark. In the same year Giuseppe Garibaldi helped unite Italy after a military career devoted to democracy around the world and Bayley felt moved to name his post office after his hero.

Interesting!…then it was onto Tillamook. The landscape transitions from coastal beaches to large fields full of cows. This is dairy country (apparently!) and the town is famous for its cheese. We pass a large factory on the outskirts of the town, which is the main cheese making factory and a significant visitor destination. Looking at the vast numbers of people eating in line outside the factory we decide to pass on by, stopping instead at another Pelican brewery for lunch (but not beer this time!).

We then take a right onto route 131, which hugs the the coast around Cape Mears. This is the highlight of the day, following a ride right by the water with huge views across Tillamook Bay. A headwind makes the going tough but due to part of the highway being closed because of subsidence we have the road to ourselves and enjoy the solitude and the bird life (herons, pelicans, cormorants, guillemots (no puffins, sadly) around the shore.

We reach the furthest point in the headland and read the sorry tale of T.B Potter who at the turn of the 20th century had a dream to create a second Atlantic city in the location. The sea, however destroyed his dream as is told in the photo below. Claire and I were, however rather intrigued to read that a hotel in the new city had the first automated fire sprinkling system. The road started to climb and we both discussed at length how such a system might work. I won’t share as it is one of those embarrassing conversations shared by people with little mechanical or practical knowledge. However the talk go us to the top of the hill and we managed to negotiate the road that had subsided into the sea.

TB potter’s sad tale

Eventually we descend into Oceanside. A big hill up is rewarded by a fast run down into the village with dramatic glimpses of cliffs, conifer clad hillsides and dramatic views of the seas below. We find our home for the night and what a treat – a beachside property with a 180 degree view of the beach (does not get much better than this!). We shower and go to the local cafe, Roseanna’s. As it said in the book – rustic , homey kitchen by the ocean. We both order filet steak (cooked perfectly!), a salad and a glass of red wine and concur that the ride had been one of the most enjoyable that we have ever done. We then returned to our picture window put on some jazz tunes and watched the sun go down – a great day!

A ride of two parts- coast then river valley

The next day it is up early to ride around 100km. The ride is billed as a ride of two half. Part one will take us along the coast to Pacific City and part two will take us eastwards inland on our journey to Portland. However our intention is to spend a couple of days making our way to Portland as we read the area is the heart of Oregon’s wine country and there is an opportunity to visit vineyards and sample the many wines on offer. Obviously not to be missed in our book. Claire will elaborate on our tour of the wine lands in the next blog BUT firstly I will complete this part of the journey, which ends at Pacific City. However prior to reaching Pacific City (not a city, just a small grouping of holiday homes and a couple of shops) we are treated to a great ride along the coast on a low trafficked roads known as Whiskey Creek Road and Cape Lookout Road. The first part of the journey presents views of Pacific Ocean and Netarts Bay form various vantage points – up high and waterside. The tilde is out and the bay is full of people collecting steamer clams. Exposed sandbars are also full of seals basking in the early morning sunshine. In addition an array of blue heron wade through the marshes looking for fish. We are also treated to early morning sunshine, beaches, mountains, greens and browns of the salt marshes and the greens of the conifer forests.

We then enter Cape Lookout State Park and start climbing through a forest. We can hear the ocean below but cannot see it until we reach the top of the climb where the trees break and we get a great view of Netarts Bay and Beach stretching form miles into the distance. We then have a great descent and fairly flat run into Pacific City and a quick pit stop before heading in land.

So this brings me to the end of our ride along the Oregon Coast. We will return to it in a week or so and hence referring to it as part 1.

Highlights….well so many!, but in summary:

– Yoga with our Henry VIII and Shelly.

– Pelican brewery the beers and the food.

– The coastal rides – all of them!…the views, the colours, the smells, the wildlife, the vastness of them.

– Learning the history of the Arch Cape community.

– Our picture window in Oceanside

– The filet steak in Oceanside.

A footnote.…..Claire and I did spend quite a lot of time discussing if this was a book what would we call it….there was a book a few years ago (one of those ‘find yourselves’ books) called ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ and we spent quite a bit of time adapting that title….but after some thought today I think I would call it ‘Finding equilibrium’ …..involving eating (a lot of good things and searching out foods and flavours we have never tasted before) ; cycling just enough to feel very well exercised and on roads which are off the beaten track but not too far of the beaten track such that we are not too far from a hot shower, an espresso and a good restaurant; tasting fine wines and beers of the region; doing yoga with whoever and wherever we can to ensure bodies do not seize up; going with the flow and laughing a lot……I.e. a big enough adventure to appeal to the middle aged adventurer!

The woody, salty and sea misty one….

Seattle – Shelton – Westport – Ocean Park – Astoria

We decided to cut across country to the coast rather than retrace steps and head north to circuit Olympic National Park. The snow capped mountains of the Olympic range have been a stunning backdrop since leaving Vancouver’s islands and we felt it time to go south. We cycled through Seattle docks and southern suburbs to catch the early ferry from Fauntleroy to Southwold – arriving just before the gate closed, the only time on the trip so far when Washington State Ferries had a prompt departure. Then followed 430km of cycling over 4 days, with stops along the way.

Our first leg – to Shelton, renowned for growing Christmas trees. Spending many hours cycling through forestry plantations, we soon understood why. A quiet route with lots of deer ambling along the roadside. Rolling, with some cheeky inclines and open valleys with headwind (great when I’m the one behind!) (Editor’s note: ….and pointless if I’m the one behind as Treanor provides no wind break!)

We got to Shelton early afternoon. A small town – sustained by trees, logging and the railways. Accommodation was not easy to come by but checked in to a motel on a retail park (rather reminiscent of C2C stopovers). Supper, much harder to find – how can over a dozen restaurants be within a 5 minute walk and none appeals (Editor note: because they comprised Taco Bell, hot dog city, a horrid Chinese, Burger King etc). Hurrah for a supermarket and ready roasted chickens!

Leg two – to Westport. Trees, trees and more trees, and warning of elks. Our first taste of misty drizzle. But it heightens the forest scents, changes the light and increases the sense of remoteness. The woodland softened as we rode through temperate rainforests with moss covered trunks and dense undergrowth, opening out to bullrushes and grasses as we crossed winding rivers.

A tough section of state highway cycling in to Aberdeen, heavy commercial traffic, and NOISE. Sign on entry: ‘Welcome to Aberdeen, Come as you Are – the home town of Kurt Cobain’.

A lovely stretch of disused railway along the coast and then some grinding out along route 105 to Westport – 30km , only straight ahead. Little along the way other than correction centres (warning sign – don’t pick up hitchers – pedal hard!) and Westport Winery – don’t pedal hard, I was suitable chastised for cycling past (it was getting on, a taster in town was calling me).

We spent 2 nights in Westport. A strong commercial fishing port for over 100 years – landing a tenth of the US seafood catch in 2016, 108m lbs of crab, salmon, hake, halibut, tuna, shrimp, sardines and others – that’s a lot of fish. Needless to say, there have been ups and downs being at the mercy of the elements. Canneries brought expansion and a flourishing fleet during WWII when the Government ordered tons of salmon and tuna for the war effort. Latterly, changing fishing techniques, technology, regulation and conservation are the influences. Tourism is also important, drawing deep sea anglers keen to catch salmon and halibut. The Grand prize for the heaviest chinook (big salmon) of the season is $10,000 – at the top of the leader board is a woman’s catch at 125lb.

We had fab places to stay – typifying why people visit – a beach hut with Pacific rollers on one side, trawlers in the marina on the other and then moved to a dudes’ hanging-out surfing lodge.

Leg three – to Ocean Park, and our first stretch on route 101 proper. Wow, a long one – somehow we hadn’t registered it was going to be 100 miles. That’s a pedElle day but without the lovely Club Peloton support. We managed – carrying luggage, navigating, being mechanics (first puncture of the trip), finding pit stops, maintaining a sense of humour – just, thanks to Donna Summer and 80’s revival pounding out of ‘Ultimate Ears’, our on-the-go speaker. Fortunately, it was an attractive route – forests, coastal sand flats, breakers on the horizon, clam beds, river inlets, marshlands, hillsides tumbling in to wide estuaries. In places reminiscent of Scottish lochs although Tsunami warning signs awakened reality. More rain initially then golden evening sunshine to bring us in. By the end we were pooped. A characterful B&B – chintz embodied – not our usual choice but flouncing drapes, florals, doilies, quilts were strangely comforting. Supper at the newly opened grill in town -so new- it had no licence or card facilities. Luckily we could scrape together enough cash for local clams – delicious.

We spent a couple of days at Ocean Park – taking in the oysters, they feature everywhere. Nearby Oysterville has sone of the oldest oyster beds on the coast. We learnt, we sampled. We found mountains of discarded shells, now being used in conservation projects, which is good news. We relaxed, read, blogged and walked on long sandy beaches.

Next stop Oregon. Getting in to Oregon was not quite so simple. It involves crossing the 5km bridge spanning the Columbia River estuary. Having had lovely gentle ride through sand dunes along the Discovery Trail to Cape Disappointment – an important defence and trading harbour, we got to the bridge. It’s impressive but very long, high, narrow with blustery cross-winds. We adhered to sound advice at an earlier café stop to ‘ask for a ride’. In order to assist us the café owner gave us two paper plates and wrote on them: ‘lift across bridge please’. We got to the bridge and gulped and decided that we should listen to the advice. We stood at the side of the road and held up our plates. After about two minutes we were picked up by a very smart SUV and deposited on the other side.

In Astoria we stayed in the first automobile garage in town, now a cosy studio. We had locally brewed beer with sea lions. And in the morning, yoga – we were the only students, on the water’s edge, seals bobbing, lutes playing and a teacher of noble stature; it felt rather regal.

Some highlights, in no particular order: –

  1. Komoot – our navigating app that finds the most pleasurable cycling routes. Invaluable. –
  2. Random conversations, everyone is SO friendly – disbelief from many that we travel so light; cautionary tales about loose bungee cables; the man from Dept of State Works re-routing us to avoid miles of broken rocks; gossiping in the laundromat; blackberry bottling tips from an old boy foraging at the side of the road; the ice cream delivery man who made our ‘ride, please’ sign and James and Christian who kindly took us over R Columbia.
  3. The American diner, always a legendary woman at the helm – Bethel’s, Sheila’s, Blondie’s, Three Sisters, Sara’s.
  4. Jen’s ability to hunt out the best lunch spots.
  5. Brightly coloured Espresso huts, just when you need one – perfect refuelling. The coffee gets better and better the further south we go.
  6. Bennett’s Fish Shack, Westport – can vouch for ‘the best’ halibut and chips in the West. Salty sea-dogs, waders, wellies and fishy tales.
  7. Epic breakfasts at Blue Buoy, WestPort and Charles Nelson B&B, Ocean Park. –
  8. A house called ‘Clamalot’.
  9. Enormity – the trucks, trailers, jeeps are massive, and forever pulling another one behind.
  10. Discovering the word ‘sessionable’ to describe certain beers…perfect. And yup we have found some very ‘sessionable’ varieties!
  11. Being asked for ID buying beer in the supermarket. It seems ‘time-out’ has its benefits!
  • Eat (a lot!), sleep, cycle Seattle

    We have just spent five days in a very hot and steamy Seattle. Prior to visiting we were anticipating rain. All the blogs say this is a rainy place to be. But the city, like the UK right now is basking in big sun.

    Ofo bikes are OK!

    We of course travelled around the City mostly on bikes and against my better judgement signed up to the local bike sharing system ‘ofo’. (Note: ‘ofo’ for those who don’t know are those ‘leave anywhere’ yellow bikes that litter street corners in London or alternatively find themselves dumped in canals, bins, back alleys…..but here in Seattle most people appear to be on board with the system and it seems to work pretty well. People leave the bikes in a number of key spaces and there are so many bikes you can pretty much get off and on one when you want. I guess it is able to work partly because of the size of the city and partly because of a smaller number of destinations as compared with London – and no TfL).

    That said, we learnt that hiring the bikes does come with a health warning: a need to check the brakes because some local wags seem to think it is rather fun to cut the brakes and hence put every driver at risk of injury or death.

    Arriving and staying….

    Over our stay we managed to visit and experience every one of Seattle’s central neighbourhoods and have some good tales to tell. However before getting into the detail a couple of introductory points:

    1. How to approach the City. By ferry from Bainbridge Island. The skyline gradually reveals itself and you get to understand how the City works before you step foot in it.

    2. Where to stay. Well for us there is only one answer to this question- on the water. This is a city that revolves around water. Lake Union sits in the middle and provides a unique and stunning setting for the City. Boatyards and marinas (commercial and leisure) surround the lake and all manner of boat craft sit on the water, including to our delight a range of floating streets and walkways fronted by an eclectic array of houseboats and more permanent floating houses.

    Given this water focus the only place to stay was a houseboat and so we found ‘Turnip,’ a small but perfectly formed wooden boat on the west side of the lake, tucked in between some bigger more fancier houseboats and cruisers.

    On arrival we loaded our bikes on board, took a shower and cracked open a couple of local beers and got down to researching where to go for the evening. We were geographically sitting very close to Queen Anne neighbourhood so I started to look for a local restaurant in the ‘hood’. After a bit of looking we selected: ‘ How to Cook A Wolf’ , well how could we not, what a name (more about that in a minute).

    A good place to eat in Queen Anne….

    Google maps told us that the restaurant was 1.5km away and so of we went. Now another very important point to note about Seattle is that it is very, very hilly. We rose up from sea level to plus 100metres in what seemed a very small distance, we climbed and climbed.

    Eventually we get to our restaurant and managed to get a late table. After a bit of discussion with our waitress and the two people at the table next to us we learn about the owner of this restaurant, a local legend: Ethan Stowell, who owns several of the City’s restaurants.

    We then learnt about the restaurant name. Apparently named after a wartime cookbook by M.F.K Fisher who took simple ingredients and transformed them into imaginative and tasty dishes. The book was written to inspire those daunted by wartime shortages to make more out of less and its content has in turn inspired Ethan and the restaurant’s simple Italian dishes.

    After a bit of chat about the book the food arrived and yup a taste sensation. Sharing plates. Not a good start for us. As Ruth says: an excuse for lazy chefs to throw food at you in a random and somewhat unsatisfactory order. BUT not here. We ordered and the food arrived in perfect sequence, comprising a pickled cucumber and fennel salad, followed by chicken liver pate with cherries, followed by burrata with wild berry jam, followed a roasted beetroot salad and walnuts, followed by a meaty pasta. So all sounds pretty straightforward. BUT the herbs and spices and food combining produced a taste sensation that we gobbled up.

    The walk home was not anywhere as stressful as walking to the restaurant. Although we did get lost and ended up scrambling up a motorway bank and climbing over a wall.

    Fremont: A brewery, a fish restaurant and an unusual park….

    We now come to day 2 and its off to neighbourhood number 2, Fremont which is famous for its troll under the motorway. Tedious and I can’t be bothered to tell you about it. Of far more interest is its brewery and coffee shops and the home of our second legend restaurant RockSalt. This is the place for fish where we sampled our first Pacific oysters. Very different to our own, more subtle and creamy and not such a slap in the face with the ocean…..but very yummy. We then ate an array of other fishes cooked in a variety of different ways. We also loved the space: a simple industrial loft space…perfect!

    Then second highlight of this district the Fremont brewery and most definitely the place to go on a Friday night after work to sup a variety of beers and pretzels ’til the sun goes down.

    Final highlight, Gas Works Park. The site of an old gas works that has been allowed to rot and rust and forms a very striking silhouette adjacent to Lake Union and a great place to view the City from.

    Ruth’s last day….

    Day three. A bit of of a discombobulating day as we had to try and find a bike box for Ruth so that she could transport her bike back home. So it was a bit of a tour round Seattle’s bike shops to find what we needed. Not much to say here apart from the shops with the most helpful and lovely staff: Wright Bothers in Fremont and Gregg’s in Green Lake. The shop with the most unhelpful, arrogant, pain in the arse staff: Velo in downtown Seattle. The shop might look mighty fine and contain some flash kit but I was saddened by the lack of help given by one particular member of staff to Ruth.

    After this rather stressful event the only solution was a swim, a kayak around the lake and another fine dinner. As it was Ruth’s last night she got to choose and requested a pizza to die for…..We found the Ballard Pizza Company and yes the pizza was truly awesome, washed down of course by some fine Seattle IPA and lager and a bit of Washington State Cab. Sav. We found out later that said pizza place was owned by that man Ethan again. He seems to be able to put his hand to all food types.

    Then sadly it was time to say good bye to Ruth. She left in a rather large SUV early on Sunday morning. A great couple of weeks had been spent and I take a moment to express how much I will miss her in emojis (❤️😘😢👩‍❤️‍👩)

    Downtown buildings and Pike Street market….

    After she had gone and feeling rather bereft and lonesome it was time to get on the bike and explore downtown. This time the objective was to take in all that is new and shiny in Seattle’s architecture. From our amblings we enjoyed the older buildings/ warehouses around Pioneer Square and of the new City buildings: the library by OMA and the Rainier Tower by Minoru Yamasaki.

    Seattle is, however booming and is about to be transformed. Downtown is currently one big building site and there are apparently another ten towers to be built. Looking at the images it would appear Seattle is having a major architecture-off and some new weird and wonderful forms will take there place on the skyline.

    The latter part of Sunday was spent Pike Street market. Part of us wanted to give this site a miss as it was just another food market. But it is very impressive, much bigger than Borough Market and much more varied. BUT, note to self don’t go on a Sunday it was rammed. The fish market is particularly amazing: super size calms and prawns and massive Alaskan salmon. We zoomed through and took in most things and then strolled back through neighbourhood number four, Belltown.

    Another great restaurant: The Walrus and the Carpenter….

    Another swim to cool down followed and then to another amazing local restaurant with an unusual name. This time the Walrus and Carpenter and another super local chef: Renee Erickson

    Located just in Ballard in an old warehouse this is a great spot and another delicious food experience. We began with a drink in the next door bar- Barnacle, owned by the same restaurant group. Then moved into the main restaurant. Another cool simple bright loft space with yellow and white chairs ( a detail, but they made an impression!). Top dish: clams, bacon and sweetcorn.

    Yoga, books and granola….

    This then brings us to our final day and Claire and I decided to visit our final neighbourhood: Capitol Hill. We got up early and joined a drop in Yoga Class at Eight Limbs. A perfect Monday morning class in a lovely space, surprisingly leafy with street trees overlooking Pike Street. This was followed by a legend breakfast in the Wandering Goose. (Note: After much searching this spot delivered the best espresso, the best granola, yoghurt and fruit and the best muffins. Everyone else around was tucking into eggs, grits, etc and these looked very good too…..so would recommend this place).

    Then we spent the rest of the morning in Elliot’s bookshop, selecting a book each followed by a trip to Pike Street Market to pick up some food for dinner on the boat. A quiet evening was spent packing up the bikes and then early to bed.

    Up early and off….

    The next day we got up at 5.30 and left our boat and Seattle.

    So Seattle: In summary a great place to spend time, eat great seafood, ride bikes safely ( a great network of cycle lanes) and finally a very beautiful city to walk around – although like any city, it has its share of depravation and those who are clearly struggling. But something we hadn’t expected, and seems to stand out – every garden and public space supports an array of lush and well maintained colourful plants and flowers….the City and its population appear to be really into their own gardens and the planting of their public realm and in return for this interest the plants themselves seem to thrive in the environment.

    So in short we loved SEATTLE!

    First 5 hours in Seattle

    1. Spectacular arrival across Puget Sound.

    2. Find Turnip, our floating home on Lake Union for the next few days.

    3. Check out the local deli. Bring supplies on board.

    4. Sign up to Ofo. Ready for city cycling.

    5. Evening dip in Lake Union. Glorious golden sunshine, fresh water, glorious.

    6. Stroll through neighbourhood. Ah, Seattle is hilly – very, very, very hilly!

    7. Discover a culinary marvel and taste sensation. How to Cook a Wolf, inspired by MFK Fisher.

    8. Zzzz….

    More anon.

    Island hopping

    Vancouver to Vancouver Island (Schwartz Bay) to Salt Spring Island to Vancouver Island to San Juan Island to Whidbey Island to Bainbridge Island .

    A week of bikes and ferries, moving between the Gulf Islands and crossing the border from Canada into the USA.

    First stop Salt Spring Island, a very laid back spot inhabited by seasonal sailors and boat owners, a community of artists, a smattering of (young and old) hippies, outdoor adventurers and an abundance of wildlife.

    Situated some 5km outside of the main town of Ganges ( named after a boat built in India) our home for three days was ‘Skipping Stones,’ a wooden beach house with a deck, barbecue and hammocks overlooking the sea (see pic above).

    From this beautiful vantage point we were lucky to witness an endless stream of the local wildlife including humming birds, otters , deer and last but no means least a hump back whale who decided to come up for air just in front of us, then to dive down and give us a great view of a tail before disappearing below the waves.

    Freshly baked muffins and scones appeared in the morning and as you can see I was quite excited by the arrival of said buns!

    Given location the opportunity was taken to do a bit of kayaking. An activity which proved (for me) much harder than anticipated due to an inability to remember my right and left and when you press the peddle to turn right you need to peddle on the left and vice verse ……very confusing……but a great way to see the sea life of the island, including seals and eagles.

    Next stop San Juan and the cross the border into the USA. As always a big zero sense of humour welcome from border control. We were questioned quite extensively about our intentions and about what we were carrying into the USA (three middle aged women on bikes in smelly bike kit- major terror threat obvs).

    San Juan presented itself as a big contrast to Salt Spring Island. A picture perfect shiny seaside place where life revolves around boats of all shapes and sizes. As Ruth put it; ‘Seems like a film set from the first Jaws film’. (A big influence us on all some 40 years after its release!).

    We made the most of our three day stay, zooming around on our bikes sans bags and kit. It felt like we got our road bikes back and they were allowed to do what they we were designed to do….to race at high speed through the countryside.

    Highlights of our mini tour: biking round the island, a brewery visit and tasting of local beers ( fave ‘Helle’s yacht masters daughter); participation in the annual lavender festival (and learning lots about how to grow, cut, process and cook with lavender); talking to locals about their community land trust project to deliver new affordable homes for islanders; watching many whales (A pod of Orcas and three Hump Backs: a rare site on the island, but becoming less rare as the community is regenerating with the help of a big local conservation push) rise and fall in the bays around the island and finally participating in a piloxing class ( a cross between Pilates and boxing).

    Next up Whitbey Island and after 4 hours of cycling along the coast we arrived at Coupeville and our accommodation for the night: Captain Whidbey’s Inn. The building is one of the oldest buildings on the Island, built in 1907 from Madronia Logs and stone and originally providing a resting place for travellers on Steamer Boats from Seattle and Everett.

    We arrived on a Monday, which meant no restaurant so we got a cab into the metropolis of Coupeville, a great spot on the water comprising a small group of shops and eateries. First stop a beer on the waterfront and then after viewing all potential eateries we picked Christophers. Amazing food (picture shared on instagram of our finished seafood stew, comprising a melange of local seafood including mussels taken from beds right by our hotel)- super yum!).

    Then to bed and a very early rise to do a big ride to Lynwood on Bainbridge Island. A 90km ride which took pretty much all day in very hot conditions. But regular stops to re-water, stock up on supplies and a medicinal ice cream made it all OK.

    We arrived at 6-ish, stocked up on supplies. Our bike shirt pockets became repositories for a bottle of wine, a chicken, herbs, salad and sweet potatoes and we then cycled to our home for two days: The Artist’s Retreat, which unfortunately was located at the top of a very long hill. On completion of this last hurdle we all collapsed in a heap, cracked open the wine, showered and at some point approaching midnight feasted on roast chicken.

    …and this brings us up to date. Two days chilling here before taking the ferry to Seattle!…and first up time for breakfast.